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15 Myths About The Titanic That People Actually Believe

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15 Myths About The Titanic That People Actually Believe

The Titanic was a grand ship there is no doubt about that. It looked good and it was said to have been constructed with precision. It was supposed to be extremely safe, one would say almost unsinkable. Those who bought tickets and were getting ready for the voyage of their life were looked upon with envy by those who couldn’t go. The Titanic carried some of the wealthiest people in the world, including the Astor family. But it also carried those far less wealthy, including many emigrants hoping to start their life anew in America, the land which they associated with freedom. Unfortunately, the ship never made it to America.

On 14th of April, 1912 at around 11:40pm, the Titanic hit an iceberg. Less than three hours later, the ship sank, with around a thousand passengers still on board. Less than a thousand passengers survived with most being from first and second class. Most of the survivors were women and children. The tragedy shook the world to the core. The tragedy of the Titanic is remembered to this day.

A number of accounts describing the accident have been published. Countless books detailing the tragedy, the passengers and the aftermath have also been written and read by those curious to learn more about the unfortunate incident. And of course, many films have also been produced and consumed by millions, the most famous one being Cameron’s ‘Titanic’. But as with most events in history, the sinking of the Titanic has resulted in many myths and stories that could not be further away from the truth.

15. Titanic Was Declared Unsinkable

When most people hear the word “Titanic”, they almost immediately associate it with the word “unsinkable”. It is now generally believed that before the Titanic set off on its maiden voyage, it was declared by the White Star Line to be an unsinkable ship. And that, apparently, added to the tragedy of the event.

However, it turns out that the Titanic was never referred to as “unsinkable” until after the sinking. It’s true that three trade publications had described the ship as practically unsinkable and that the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff stressed the ship’s safety. However, it was only a day after the tragedy that the supposed assertion of Titanic’s unsinkability gained prominence among the public. Philip A. S. Franklin, vice President of White Star’s holding company, said in a New York Times interview that he “thought her unsinkable”. After that, everyone came to believe that the Titanic was declared unsinkable prior to her voyage.

14. The Damage Had To Be Huge

It is believed by many that when the Titanic collided with the iceberg, the iceberg left a 300 foot gash in the side of the ship. According to many, the damage done by the iceberg had to be huge. Otherwise, the magnificent ship would have survived the collision. However, when scientists investigated the sunken ship, it was found that the damage done by the iceberg was extremely small. In fact, the iceberg left only six thin openings on the ship’s hull. The total area of damage is said to have been smaller than the area of two sidewalk squares! The ship was destined to sink not because of the size of the damage but because of the placement of the six openings caused by the iceberg.

13. The Cursed “Hope Diamond” Was On The Ship

Another persistent rumor spread by Cameron’s film is that the famous Hope Diamond was on the Titanic when it sank. At the time of the Titanic’s maiden voyage, the spectacular (albeit also supposedly cursed) diamond belonged to Evelyn McLean, a Washington socialite who was not in actual fact aboard the Titanic. Thus, the Hope Diamond did not go down with the ship. And it certainly was not the cause of the ship’s sinking in the first place. But perhaps the diamond was cursed after all: McLean’s nine-year-old son died in a car crash and her twenty-five-year-old daughter killed herself. In addition, McLean’s husband went insane and died in a mental institution two years after the Titanic sank.

12. The Titanic Curse

It is said that the Cursed Mummy of Princess Amen-Ra was originally bought by a group of Englishmen in Egypt. Misfortune and mysterious accidents soon befell the group and one of the men even died. The cursed mummy changed ownership a number of times, and each time something terrible happened to the owner or his family. When the mummy was finally donated to the British Museum, bad things began to happen to the museum’s visitors and caretakers.

Eventually, the mummy was supposedly bought by an American man and placed on board the Titanic. And that is why the Titanic really sank. Or so some people say. However, the story has a number of inconsistencies within it. Plus, in 1985 Charles Haas, the president of the national Titanic Historical Society, got the chance to glance at the Titanic’s cargo manifest and cargo diagrams. As you can probably imagine, no mummy was listed to have ever been on board. Furthermore, the mummy has actually never left the British museum and is still there to this day.

11. Captain Smith Died A Hero

Edward Smith, the captain of the Titanic, is often referred to as a hero. After the sinking, many survivors supposedly claimed that Captain Smith was incredibly brave and did all he could to make the evacuation of the ship as easy as possible. He helped women and children board the lifeboats and according to Robert Williams Daniel, a first class passenger, Captain Smith “stood on the bridge and shouted through a megaphone, trying to make himself heard”. However, according to others, Captain Smith was not as brave as some make him out to be. It is said that before the Titanic went down, a few witnesses saw the Captain shoot himself. It is also generally said that Captain Smith never issued an official order to abandon the ship which gave some passengers a false sense of security.

10. J. Bruce Ismay Was A Coward

While most people see J. Bruce Ismay as the bad guy, the reality is a little bit different. The world condemned him for his survival. But was Ismay really that bad? Did he just hop onto one of the lifeboats, forgetting about the rest of the passengers? Many survivors claim that Ismay was not as selfish as everyone claims he was.

According to many witnesses, Ismay tried to help out as much as possible when the ship was sinking. It is said that Ismay even helped crewmen fill the lifeboats with women and children as well as lower the lifeboats into the water. Ismay boarded one of the last few lifeboats that were lowered into the water and later claimed that he did so only because there were no children or women nearby. Later, second officer Lightoller claimed that after Ismay was rescued, he “was obsessed with the idea that he ought to have gone down with the ship because he found that women had gone down”.

9. Most People Died Because There Were Not Enough Lifeboats

Many believe that it was the shortage of lifeboats aboard the Titanic that resulted in the extremely large numbers of people dying on the ship. And while it is true that there was a lack of lifeboats available it doesn’t necessarily mean that more lifeboats would have meant more survivors. It was no easy job to fill and lower the lifeboats into the water. Everything was done manually and it took quite a long time to get the lifeboats ready. After the Titanic hit the iceberg it sank extremely quickly. So even if there were more lifeboats available, it doesn’t mean that there would have been enough time to fill them all and lower them into the water.

8. Crewmen Did Not Adhere To The “Women And Children First” Rule

Quite a few men survived the sinking of the Titanic which has brought about the myth that the rule “women and children first” went unobserved. However, this is not entirely true. Since the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage, many members of the crew had not yet been fully trained for an emergency situation. As such, the general rule “women and children first” was interpreted by each officer individually. So some officers took the rule to mean that no men should be allowed to board the lifeboats until all women and children on the ship had been saved. Other officers allowed men to board the lifeboat if there were no women and children in sight.

7. The Last Song Played By Titanic’s Band Was “Nearer My God To Thee”

Many passengers on the Titanic were selfish and faint-hearted. But many were also brave and selfless. Take the example of the Titanic’s musicians. They were not technically part of the crew and had no obligation to stay on the sinking ship or help out with the lifeboats. The band could have easily boarded one of the lifeboats and lived to tell the tragic tale of the ship’s sinking. Instead, they chose to stay on the ship and play lighthearted music until the very end. There has been much debate over what was the last song the band played. It is generally believed that it was the song “Nearer My God to Thee”. However, others say it was the song “Autumn”. Other suggestions have also been made but we will never know for sure.

6. J. Bruce Ismay Ordered Captain Smith To Go Faster

It is generally believed that it was Ismay’s fault that the Titanic collided with an iceberg. The rumor that Ismay urged Captain Smith to increase the speed of the ship so as to reach their destination in record time was spread by Emily Ryerson, a first class passenger. After the ship sank, Ismay was questioned thoroughly, especially on whether he had interfered with the speed and course of the Titanic.

At the Senate inquiry Ismay claimed that he “had never done so” and he was probably being honest. If anything, it was probably Captain Smith who decided to increase the speed of the ship. He had previously captained the ship Olympic, and had pushed it faster than the Titanic, arriving earlier at its destination than expected or even wanted by the ship’s company.

5. Gates Prevented Third Class Passengers From Surviving

In Cameron’s film Titanic we see third class passengers being barred from going up to the lifeboats during the sinking of the ship. It’s certainly an evocative scene but it never happened in real life. While it is true that gates barring third class passengers from the rest of the ship did exist (to prevent the spreading of disease), when the ship began to sink the gates were opened. Each class was supposed to have access to their own set of lifeboats but no lifeboats were actually stored in the third class section of the ship. It was much harder for third class passengers to reach the deck of the ship so that explains why so few third-class passengers survived. Another reason why so few third-class passengers survived is said to be their reluctance to part with their luggage.

4. Titanic Was The First Ship To Send Out S.O.S. Signal

Back in the day, ships had no universal distress signal. In 1906, the International Conference on Wireless Communication at Sea was held in Berlin with the purpose of sorting out several issues. One of these issues was the lack of universal distress call. British wireless operators usually used the letters CQD to let other ships know that they were in danger. “CQ” basically meant “seek you” and “D” meant “danger”. The Germans did not like this signal and offered a few substitutes. One of them was “SOS”. By 1908 Great Britain and other countries had voted to adopt the use of “SOS” as a distress call. However, most wireless operators on British ships continued using “CQD”. But in 1910 the New York Times wrote about the new SOS signal and even included stories of ships that had already used the signal. The Titanic used both CQD and SOS. But it certainly was not the first ship to use the “SOS” signal.

3. Titanic’s Hull Number Read “No Pope” Backwards

An interesting story claims that Catholic shipyard workers working on the Titanic knew that the ship was destined for tragedy. How did they know? Apparently, the ship’s hull number was 390904. If the number was read backwards, it read “NO POPE”. It is said that Catholic workers were so rattled by this ominous sign that they even stopped working on the ship until the management convinced them that the number was pure coincidence. The Catholic workers apparently still believed the number was the result of Protestant heretics, but they returned to work nonetheless. However, as fascinating as this story is, it is not actually true. The Titanic did not even have a hull number. Its Board of Trade designation was 131 428 and its yard number was 401. Plus, all of Titanic’s workforce was Protestant, not Catholic.

2. Sinko De Mayo

As far as rumors go, this is a rather bizarre one. The rumor claims that in 1912 Hellman’s mayonnaise was produced in England and that the Titanic carried 12,000 jars of the condiment on board of its ship. The 12,000 jars of mayonnaise were to be delivered to Vera Cruz in Mexico which is where the ship was to go after reaching New York. The people of Mexico supposedly loved mayonnaise so when the Titanic and all of its cargo sank, the Mexicans were heartbroken. They declared an official day of mourning. But they were not mourning for the lives lost. They were mourning for the mayonnaise. The national day of mourning was supposedly called Sinko de Mayo. Of course, this story is completely untrue and was probably meant as a joke (perhaps as a pun on the actual Mexican celebration of Cinco de Mayo). The ship’s final destination was New York and it carried no mayonnaise. Plus, Hellman’s mayonnaise was not produced or sold in England until fifty years after the sinking of the Titanic.

1. A Worker Was Trapped Within The Titanic’s Hull

Another popular rumor concerning the Titanic is that one or two shipyard workers were accidentally trapped in the hull of the Titanic forever. Of course, since work was being carried out rapidly and there was no time to waste, nobody even noticed the missing worker until it was too late. However, this story is not true either. In fact, very few workers died during the construction of the ship. It was generally believed at the time that one worker would die for every £100,000 in costs of building the ship. Thus, about a dozen workers were predicted to die. In reality, only two shipyard workers perished, and neither was trapped inside the Titanic’s hull.

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